Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Art of Dora Colby

Clear Lake in Lake County, California
by: Dora Colby 1945
Dora Colby (Glenn’s great grandmother) painted landscapes in England as well as after arriving in California.  She would sketch scenes, sometimes out of her imagination, and paint them in her studio under her home on Ridgemoor Drive next door to where Stephen and Arthur Langton grew up.  Arthur would often go in and watch her paint.  Glenn’s great Grandfather Colby bought the molding, made, and painted the frames.  Dora never painted portraits and rarely people.  She would often copy other paintings or photographs Glenn’s Grandfather Langton took on family vacations.
Dora Colby's paintings evolved over the years.  Her later works were much brighter and the colors more vivid.  As a young woman, she also sang in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas staged in small theaters with no electronic amplification, so she knew how to project her voice.  When hymns were sung in church, you could always tell if she was in attendance.  She also painted china and a fire screen now kept with Arthur Langton.  She played the piano and was involved in several civic groups in Studio City, California.
During World War II she organized the Ridgemoor unit of British War Relief which made clothing for merchant seamen crewing merchant ships in the battle of the North Atlantic, the longest and most critical battle of World War II.  She organized the fund raising parties to buy the materials and recruited the women to cut and stitch the material, and knit sweaters and watch caps for sailors.  The British government supplied the patterns.  The resulting clothing was packed into boxes that coffins returned in and sent off to the war.  She was a very good organizer and not someone you wanted to fool around with or annoy.  At the war's end, she was awarded a medal by George VI, actually the British government, one of the few people to receive the honor in Southern California.

This painting is likely a copy of Tuner's Poppy Fields
by: Dora Colby 1940

Unkown Coastline
by: Dora Colby 1937

The Diary of Dora Colby

Below are my great grandmother's journal and comments on the Colby family's trip to Los Angeles 100 years ago last November.  The use of the name "Girlie" was my grandma Langton's nickname as a young girl and even into later life depending on who you were talking to.  "Jack" refers to my great grandpa Colby (John Colby) while "Jackie" refers to John Colby, Jr., my grandma Langton's eldest brother and my dad's uncle Jack.  Miss Perkins is the family nanny and housekeeper brought along as part of the family, although not related in any way, to assist with caring for the children.  After the children were grown and had left home, she remained in California residing in Hermosa Beach.  She always sent out fruit cakes to everyone each and every Christmas.


November 1913

Comments, incidents, and description of the journey by John and Dora Colby and family from England to Los Angeles, CA.

Left mother’s on November 11 for Southampton. Stayed the night at the Flowers Hotel and started for the boat which we boarded about 10:30. Mother and (Auntie) Lil came with us and settled us in our cabins and we said good bye to them at 12 o’clock and started off for Cherbourg. We soon found we were in for rough weather and after lunch Girlie and I retired to our bunks where Jackie soon joined us. Girlie had a nice sleep and Jackie was not sick whilst he kept quiet. Miss Perkins soon gave in and had to lie down and was very bad and about 4 o’clock Eric, who up to then was in highest spirits, came to lie down.

I was quite all right thanks to Mothersells (sp?) and Daddy was quite well on deck. The waves are very big and we pitch and toss about dreadfully and some big waves keep washing right over the porthole, but we hope for the best.

Jack has come to lie down, and seeing everyone ill has made him qualmy. Poor Jackie very bad and Girlie had to come to me she felt so seedy. We all felt qualmy until the boat reached Cherbourg Harbor when we had a blessed respite and all perked up wonderfully. Had some dinner and walked about the deck.

A lot of emigrants came on board and we were very interested in watching them. The women carried all their worldly belongings in striped bags on their backs and many had little babies with them. None wore hats, but a few had shawls over their heads. I got the children to bed comfortably and we left the harbor at 8:30. John and I soon came to bed to, to get settled before the pitching and tossing began again.

It is a beautiful moonlight night and the lights of France twinkle in the distance. It was very rough all night and we only slept in snatches. In the morning we all felt qualmy and Jackie and Miss Perkins very sick. After lunch it was less rough, and we all, except Miss Perkins, sat on deck.

We reach Queenstown [Ireland] at 5 o’clock and were all charmed by the beautiful harbor. I photographed Roach Island and the children were much amused with the hundreds of seagulls that followed the boat. We had a long talks with Mr. Fry, the first officer, and watched the old Irish women come on board to sell lace, pipes, etc. We had letters here and took in over 1200 bags of mail as the Mauritania could not get into the harbor for them the day before as it was too rough. We all had dinner at 6 o’clock, roast gosling and ice cream, which later the children all enjoyed. I got them to bed before the boat started. Miss Perkins perked up and came on deck, and we thoroughly enjoyed a stroll on deck in the moonlight, talked to Mr. Fry again, and watching the various lights flashing. We returned in good time in case of bad weather. The steward had left one porthole open until he went off duty at 9 o’clock.

Saturday Since the night before last when the steward closed our porthole, I have been very busy lying quite still to keep off seasickness. Mr. Fry’s prophecy came true. About 2 o’clock Friday morning we began to meet the full force of the Atlantic and the rolling, tossing, and pitching with the screw coming out of the water was awful. Jackie soon started filling his tin and when I move I was sick so kept quiet as when I lifted my head up it whirled and I think Jackie’s did too. Eric was as lively as a sand boy, also Girlie. Jack got up on deck twice, but mostly lay quiet, thus he wasn’t ill. Today it is rough, but not quite so bad as through the night when we seemed to sink down into the depths and then slide up and then shake all over. Jackie says he shall never come back again. He’s had enough of the sea to last a lifetime. Eric played about on one bed then on another till 4 o’clock when he suddenly said, “Oh Jackie, I do feel so ill” and the two of them took it in turns till the tin overflowed and I rang for the steward in a hurry. No more was heard from Eric and the steward had to carry him back to his cabin which he shared with Miss Perkins who hasn’t left her bunk yet. It’s so rough I must stop.

Sunday The gale was worse than ever and the engines went dead slow as the waves were as high as 60 feet; they washed over the captain’s bridge. It was baby’s birthday, and what a day. We pitched and tossed so much she couldn’t stand out of her bunk, but she was very good lying there with a picture book. Jack got up on deck for a few minutes and he said the waves were awful and everything awash. The forward screen was washed away and all the forward hatches were battened down as they were flooded with water. For an awful 10 minutes the engines stopped, the condenser had broken, and everyone wondered what was the matter. Then we started slowly again pitching, tossing, and rolling. Girlie’s birthday menu was very nice, but we were satisfied with chicken and ices. We had one or two crockery smashes in our cabin. All night the storm raged and all day Monday when the engines stopped for repairs.

Tuesday wasn’t quite so bad and I managed to get Girlie out her birthday present from Auntie Mary, a box of bricks, and they amused her for hours building on my hat box. Wednesday was much better and everyone was thankful. The captain never left the bridge Sunday or Monday. It was an anxious time. She is such an old boat and only makes one more voyage before she goes into dock for three months of repairs and then goes on a slower line. The third officer took a good photo of the waves and gave one to Daddy.

The sun shone on Wednesday and most people got on deck to enjoy it after a week of storms. We carried a record mail, nearly 6000 bags as it had been too rough for over a week for the boats to put in at Queenstown for them. Wednesday night we had a concert, and amongst other items, was a performing ape belonging to a gentleman on board. Her name was “Cantata.” She smokes, plays the piano and various other things. One girl danced twice, and there was heaps of singing. Thursday was cold and choppy, but we all got on deck and were very pleased to see Nantucket lighthouse which we passed at 8 o’clock.
Everyone was up early on Friday morning, breakfast at 6 o’clock as we steamed up the harbor, passed the Statue of Liberty, and docked about 10 o’clock. We passed the doctor and got through the customs very well though it took over 2 hours. All our luggage with us was opened, but not muddled about. We walked a little way and then took tickets for the 2 o’clock ferry, and while waiting, got something to eat, but things were horrid, fishcakes in red sauce and pickled cabbage and onion. Ugh! We crossed the ferry which took twenty minutes and got our train for Chicago, a nice drawing room, comfortable and everything most luxurious. We slept one night on this line, the Erie, and hope to reach Chicago at 7 tonight.

Boiling hot at Chicago. Got the train for Los Angeles which was packed and found there was no drawing room reserved for us. The conductor was very kind and after arranging for our sleeping as best he could and got us a private car the next day. We all enjoyed the 2 ½ days run to Los Angeles especially the latter part where the mountains were magnificent. We spent a little while at Albuquerque and inspected some Indians and their weaving. Arrived in Los Angeles at 2 o’clock Tuesday, where Godfrey Edwards and Tom and May Plumb were waiting for us at the station.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hunting for unstable atoms...

As a perk for supporting the Safecast Kickstarter campaign, I received the Safecast Onyx Geiger counter.  A Geiger counter is a radiation survey instrument used to detect alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays emitted from decaying atoms.  Upon receiving my detector, I went in search of radioactive sources.  Below are some photos and video showing some of the items I've come across.

"Fiesta Red" glazed Fiestaware gravy boat showing a high level of radiation, found in an antique shop in Santa Paula, CA

Vase and two glasses behind other glass antiques are Uranium glass (aka Vaseline glass)

Video of some Uranium glass marbles showing their radioactivity and their fluorescence under UV light

Uranium glass teacup and saucer

Glass jar miss-labeled as "Vaseline glass", but no Uranium is detectable only low level background radiation of ~53CPM

Naturally occurring Potassium-40 detectable in a large bag of Potassium Chloride (used to replenish water softeners)

Some low level radioactive materials are available for purchase online.  In addition to the above items, I've been able to purchase a self illuminating tritium vial, radium watch hands, and thoriated welding rods all which contain a small but measurable source of radiation.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Lady

I recently purchased my great grandmother's 1955 Ford Fairlane from my aunt.  Affectionately known as "The Lady," the car has been passed from one member of the family to another since its purchase.  The slideshow above shows the many adventures the Lady has been on and below is a short history (much credit is due to my Uncle for helping write about much of the car's early years).  I hope to continue adding photos and stories as I collect them as well as sharing the new adventures the car sees, enjoy!

The Lady was purchased new in 1955 by Dora E. L. Colby or "Mimi" as she was known.  When she died in 1960 it became her husband's (John Colby) car until he gave up driving at age 90 around 1965 or '66.  Because John could no longer drive himself, Arthur Langton or "Dub," began driving his grandpa around in the Ford.  Arthur was student teaching at the time, but looked forward to being eligible for a real job.  Grandpa John gave the car to Arthur shortly after he started teaching in the spring of '66 (Arthur first taught period 6 in Room 6 on 6/6/66).  The car only had about 29,000 miles on it at the time so it was practically new.  Though it was now Arthur's car, he continued to drive Grandpa Colby around in the Lady until Grandpa died just after the first moon landing in 1969.

Arthur enjoyed many adventures in the Lady.  He drove it to Camp Whitsett the last year he was on JLT staff and then on to Kings Canyon NP where he did a solo backpacking trip up Bubb's Creek to check out a campsite the Post might use on an up coming summer trek.  He was the Post adviser by then so the Lady took him and the crew on many adventures.
John and Dora Colby also had a green Ford purchased in the late 40's which was named "The Lizard."   There weren't any grand children old enough to drive then so it was probably traded in to help purchase the Lady.
Grandpa Colby gave cars to all his grandsons, a tradition that started with John Colby III receiving Grandpa's Model A Ford complete with rumble seat and running boards.  Like a good engineer to be, he took the motor completely apart, reassembled it, and got it to run.  Unfortunately, a girl he was sweet on objected to being taken out on dates in such an old car.  Eventually, the girl dumped him anyway and John sold the car.

Kennard was next in line and received John and Dora Colby's '36 Ford which they had used throughout World War II and until new models came out after the war.  Kennard drove the '36 Ford up to the Kern River where it overheated and cracked the block head.

Grandpa Colby, not having any spare cars at the time, gave G. Alan Hunter the money to buy a used Dodge Dart.  None of Grandpa's gift cars were new.  Alan used it to commute between Sacramento and UC Davis.  Until he graduated, he also drive his sister, Pamela Hunter (now Johnson), to and from Davis.  He likely drove the car back to Chicago where he was a graduate student at the University of Chicago in Political Science.

Stephen Langton received the Lady from his brother Arthur after Arthur bought his Uncle John's '66 Ford station wagon which he had used in his contracting business and would pull a trailer.  At the time, Stephen was driving his mother's (Irene) '57 Ford which had loads of horsepower.  Fuel efficiency was not an issue in those days.  When Irene bought her '68 Ford, Grandpa Colby gave Irene the estimated cost of the '57 Ford just to keep his record in tack, that he really had given each of his Grandsons a car.  What about his Granddaughters you ask? Grandpa Colby was extra generous with them when they got married, or so I'm told, and all were married prior to his death.

Stephen drove the Lady to commute to LA High from the San Fernando Valley for some time before buying a more efficient diesel VW Rabbit.  He then gave the Lady to Debra Flu (now Gruttadauro) one of his wife Jeralynn's younger sisters.  Debra drove the Lady in Los Angeles and San Diego while attending college and continued enjoying the car as a weekend driver after she married.  She showcased the car in a few shows and lent the Lady to her friends as a wedding getaway car.  After enjoying the car longer than any of the previous owners (30+ years), she sold the car to me in 2012!